Hike #15: Mount Monadnock with kids
Date: October 26, 2013
Location: Jaffrey, NH
Distance: 4.2 miles
Time: 5:26 (1:18/mile)
My daughters, 8- and 10-year-olds, are not fans of hiking. Skiing, beaches, and occasional letterboxes, sure. Even casual tennis. But they don’t like hard exertion, sweating, or the accompanying stink, and my best cajoling hasn’t made a noticeable dent in their lack of enthusiasm. I’ve since snapped. Not “snapped” as in talking to myself in tongue, or going to work naked, or getting out of my truck to run through traffic jams flapping my arms and screaming “I’ll get there first!” I’ve decided that if they aren’t inherently inclined to hike then I’ll force the issue, do my best to make it enjoyable for them, and hope they come to appreciate it at some point.
After hiking with my 8- and 10-year-old girls in August, when they reluctantly claimed Mount Wachusett as their first summit, I was determined to get one more hike with them before winter set in. After a couple of attempts fell through for various reasons, I approached the last weekend in October as our final shot and I was determined to take advantage of it.The unsuccessful couple of attempts in prior weeks had prepped them that I wouldn’t give up, but they were still nervous in the run-up to the weekend, with cold weather forecasted. Having read many articles on hiking with kids, I tried to prep them as best as I could. I explained that they were mostly in charge of the hike, whether pace, route, pictures, or breaks. We got suitably fashionable thermal underwear, and I explained to them about layering. I also worked with them to take ownership over managing their hydration and nutrition, with one taking a smaller Camelbak and the other using a fanny pack. That Saturday, as we set out at noon from a crowded parking lot, they were actually in good spirits and enjoying being geared up.
|All geared up and ready to go!|
It was a fantastic day. With two grown-ups and two kids, the four of us drifted together and apart, in varying combinations, as we worked our way up the mountain. We talked casually, offered hiking tips, listened as the girls opened up more over the day, laughed, and enjoyed occasional silence. We sometimes hopped, tip-toed, used handholds, and risked falls in puddles. The girls, with packs of their own and responsibility to manage themselves, rummaged for snacks and drank whenever they wanted instead of only when we suggested.
|The girls earned the view and lunch!|
|Enjoying the rock scrambles!|
|Monadnock's summit, AKA the halfway point.|
Plenty of hiking still to go!
They also found perseverance and new perspective. As we fell far off the pace, and became some of the last people heading down the mountain, with well over a mile to go, we had to choose between picking up the pace or finishing in the dark. Sydney showed she could consistently maintain a surprisingly good pace, and happily bonded with me as we rock hopped up ahead before waiting for Sara and Sarah to catch up. Sarah learned fatigue is sometimes as mental as it is physical, picking up the pace when she preferred to be done for the day. One of them might have even gotten comfortable peeing in the woods. I won’t name which one for now, until I need a trump card to threaten.
And they found the joy of secret surprises. One example was the foot-long rice krispy treat I pulled out for the last leg. A 0.2-mile first leg required 45 minutes. After the treat, that same leg took 15 minutes even though we’d been hiking for over five hours. Instead of going home and making dinner, they learned the pure joy of chowing down on après hike pub food, getting a kick out of sitting higher off the ground at pub tables.
|Finish strong, girls! Finish strong!|
So, I have no doubt there will be complaints, whines, and grumblings. But I think this was an experience that will be a springboard into others next year, making it everything I hoped it would be. And as I stood behind Sydney, Sarah, and Sara, watching them snack and admire the view of the distant mountains; or as I watched Sarah leaning backwards into Sara, establishing a casual connection; or watching Sydney cut me off to nimbly tip-toe across a rock, risking wet feet if she fell into a puddle on either side in order to be the one to show the way, I felt that, as a person and a father, today was a remarkable day.
For my last hike of the year, it’s hard to argue with a day like this.
See you on the trail,
Jay Bell, AKA Rock Hopper